A/N: While I'll admit this took quite a while, a lot has been going on in my life right now. The next chapter is already half written so I'm hoping to have it up by the end of the week. Thank you so much to my amazing beta, Elizabeth Burke, without whom this story wouldn't be half as good as it is. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: Me? Own White Collar? I wish…
Word Count: 1,132
Clark had given Neal three hours. Nearly and hour and half of that had already passed, and Neal was getting nervous, when finally, Lee's other goon (Jake; the pair hadn't really been careful to keep their names from Neal) walked in. Clark had been having them bring Neal food about thrice a day. The meals weren't exactly five-star quality (half of a soggy sandwich, cold pizza, partially eaten Chinese food, etc.) but enough for Neal to keep up his strength to do Lee's bidding. It hadn't taken long to discover Jake and TJ weren't the sharpest knives in the drawer, so hopefully, manipulating them would be easy.
"Clark told you, right?" The goon put the dishes he was carrying on the ground and stared at Neal, baffled.
"No," he drawled. Neal feigned annoyance.
"Of course he forgot. Listen, I need a cell phone to contact my guy. He'll need at least an hour notice to get the stuff ready," Neal said, trying not to reveal the fact he was lying through his teeth.
"For the FBI! You knew we were placing a bomb in the building?"
"Well Lee's guy fell through, so Clark told me to call in mine. He said you could get me a phone." Jake at least had the brains to look hesitant at the suspicious request. "Look, if that's too hard I can find one myself," Neal snapped impatiently.
"I'll do it," the goon replied and left the room, returning shortly with a cell before leaving again. Neal took a second to bask in his relief, but this wasn't over yet.
The cell was a simple flip with a standard keypad; a tedious choice for the modern American, but it would work just fine for Neal's purposes. He dialed Mozzie's emergency number, as he'd lost track of the day of the week and knew Mozzie always had this one on him.
"Moz, it's me."
"Neal? Where are you?"
"I don't know, they've been knocking me out. I might not have much time. Do you remember that job in Topeka?"
"Of course, perfect recall. And that was genius."
"I hope so, we need to do it again. On the FBI."
"I don't have time to answer questions, Moz. Clark's made it clear it's either this, or a bomb. A real one. Can you do it?"
"You know I can. When?"
"As soon as possible. Clark will put his plan into motion if it's more than an hour."
"I'll handle it. Neal, are you…okay?" Was he okay? Lee hadn't seriously hurt him, Clark had only made threats. If he wasn't "useful" Neal was sure he'd be as good as gone, but for now, he was okay.
"Yeah, Moz, I'm fine. Just don't tell Peter about this. Not until after."
"The Suit will not hear a word. Good luck, Neal." Neal hung up. The hardest part was over; he knew Mozzie would hold up his end. Now he just had to wait.
Peter stared at the empty spot on the wall with such fascination, you'd think it had the ability to tell him where Neal was being held. The area was still a crime scene (something the MET's staff was not pleased about) and after he explained the situation Agent Owens was more than happy to let Peter look around. He'd started from the spot the code was found—approximately 20 feet from where the painting had been hanging—and walked the entire floor from each direction. He found absolutely nothing. Now he was examining the wall that once held the Degas, hoping for some further hint. The appearance of Neal's code an hour ago had made Peter ecstatic, but he'd now realized it didn't help much. Neal didn't mention where he was, (he probably didn't even know), the museum heist angle gave them nothing, and Lee being Neal's kidnapper was information the team already knew. The most helpful line was "will try to contact again".
The ringing of his cell phone pulled Peter out of his daze.
"Boss, I've been looking further into Lee's criminal background, and I found something interesting. You'll want to see this."
"I'll be right there." He looked at the time on his cell screen as he pressed 'end call'. Was it really only eleven o' clock? Neal had been gone for just forty-four hours. To Peter, it felt like hundreds.
Peter hurried into the White Collar office, a spring in his step for the first time in two days. Diana hadn't mentioned what exactly she'd found, or if it would assist them in locating Neal in any way, but Peter was hungry for new information. If it had to do with Lee, he wanted to know.
Being quarter to twelve, most agents in the bullpen were clearing their desks of files and photos, and pulling brown-bag lunches from their drawer. Peter wasn't the only workaholic; it was a rare occasion if more than ten percent of FBI agents went out to eat on a Wednesday afternoon.
Diana was at her computer, Jones hunched over next to her.
"What've you got?" Diana pulled up a minimized window and was about to speak, but paused.
"Do you smell that?" Peter and Jones sniffed the air.
"Garlic? Or maybe mustard…" Jones said. Peter looked frantically around the room. He spotted a brownish-yellow gas beginning to seep out of the air vents at the top of the walls.
"Mustard gas. Jones, get everyone out of the office, now. Diana—"
"Already dialing." Into the phone she said, "We have a possible biological attack on the twenty-second floor, we need to get everyone out of the building immediately!"
Jones stood on top a chair and began shouting similar warnings, and Peter ran to help hold open the office doors for the mob of agents running to the stairs. Within seconds a hazard alarm was going off and the stairs were crowded with people coming from all floors.
In less than ten minutes (they were trained for this) all but a few were standing outside, waiting for the SWAT team. Peter, Jones and Diana were standing in a huddle with the other White Collar agents, none of whom had any idea what was really going on inside the building.
A/N #2: My best wishes to all who are dealing with the aftermath of hurricane Irene right now. May you and your families remain safe.